The 13 months served in country ( Vietnam) was full of excitement for me. I had seen things that filled me with wonderment and other things that filled me with Horror. A lot of good things sometimes get lost in the sauce because of other events that become indelibly etched in the forefront of your mind. Sometimes the little good can ease that lot of bad that has been surrounding you for days on end. This story always brings a smile to my face. Here is hoping that all those veterans who suffer from PTSD can find a little smile that can turn a down turn frown to a up turned grin.
My battalion was performing search and destroy operations in the three corps area of operations when my company came under fire from the enemy. My platoon was patrolling along side of an irrigation ditch that provided water for a nearby rice patty when bullets started flying towards us.
After I hit the water soaked muddy ground, I looked around and asked if anyone had been hit by the initial burst of fire. After I received a reply of negative I began to scan the terrain looking for the location and source of hostile fire. Once the general area from where the fire was coming from was discovered a fire mission was called.
I give the order to open fire on the enemy position. The noise became eardrum shattering as my squad opened up with m60 machine gun, m79 grenade launcher, and m16A1 assault rifles on the enemy position. Even with all the noise cascading in my ears, I could still hear the report of the big guns firing a salvo from a near by firebase.
I shouted for heads down as the first rounds began to impact on the NVA positions to our front. Dull thuds shook the earth and clouds of muddy water rose in the sky as if to pay tribute to the steel rain of 105s high explosive rounds falling from the sky.
I raised my steel helmeted head very slowly so as to have my eyes and head exposed as little as possible. As my eyes became even with the mound of dirt, I continued rising my head until I could scan the terrain before me. Above all the ordanance exploding and weapons firing, I could make out the sound of whimpering. On hearing this sound, my mind began to race. Shit, there is a kid stranded out in the holocaust that is unfolding before me.
A sense of urgency overcame my combat experience and I pulled myself up from the protection of the dirt mound and exposed the upper part of my body for all to see. This is when I heard my mind shouting GET YOUR STUPID ASS DOWN. Upon hearing this high-pitched screaming in my head, I complied. In doing so, I caught a glimpse of something or someone crawling in the mud towards our static position.
Again I exposed my body to the hell being sown in front of me. This is when I saw what was whimpering and crawling towards us. It was a small puppy half out of his little doggie mind with fright. I called for the animal to come to me; of course the dog did not know the English language, but he headed towards me never the less. As the pooch crawled towards my exposed position, I had another flash. This time the flash was about the war movie Alls Quiet On The Western Front when the main character was shot and killed my sniper while admiring a flower in front of his trench. My ass got real tight but I continued to reach for the puppy with the hopes saving this shell-shocked canine not only from the battlefield, but also the cooking pot.
While lying full out and flat on the ground I finally was able to grab the little dog and pulled both the dog and myself back into the safe confines of my mud hole. The pooch shook and shook from sheer fright that it was difficult trying to keep a good grasp on him. To keep the animal safe, I emptied my claymore mine bag and put the dog in it. When you snapped one of the closing elements shut, the dog became snug and safe.
After the fire fight we, my company continued it mission until pick up time arose. The pooch continued to whimper and shake all the while nestled in the claymore bag. While carting the dog in the bag I could feel tremors emanating from the dogs body as I continued to carry on with the mission.
The word came down that we were to be picked up and transported back to our base camp Phuc Vinh or better knows as poppa victor to stand down for a few days. While waiting for the helicopter transport, my squad gathered around to look and touch the little mutt. The question of a name came up and someone suggested the name SHAKY. A new member of the squad was now getting ready for his first chopper ride.
The birds came in a trail formation and of course my squad was on the first one. I was the last on the HU1B and I noticed the co pilot marking the windscreen with a grease pencil on how many men was on the bird and then I noticed he marked the existence of Shaky on board as plus one dog. The co pilot smiled and I did the same as our transport took to the sky.
Shaky became our mascot for a few days before the word to mount up came. I knew I could not take Shaky with us, because he would become a liability to all of us. So a search was on to find a good home for Shaky before we headed towards our mission.
I found one of my cook buddies who were willing to take Shaky off our hands and give him a good home. I stated before I handed over the pooch, the cook had to promise he would keep the dog safe and from the Vietnamese cooking pot. This he did and myself and the rest of the squad said our good bys and headed towards the airfield and pick up.
I had the chance to see shaky a couple times before our base of operations became Chu Chi. I have often wondered how the pooch lived after the rescue and of the pilot who by chance documented the existence of our new squad member?
War does bring out some of the good in people least we forget. War is hell but it can be heaven sent for some.
The story continues.
WM Roland Hayes.